- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) — Hundreds of mourners, including some former congressional colleagues and the city’s mayor, packed a Chicago church Tuesday to pay final tribute to former U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, a one-time Democratic mainstay whose political career ended in ignominy.

Among the first to arrive at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, where Mr. Rostenkowski was baptized and confirmed and where he attended services throughout his life, were Mayor Richard M. Daley, his brothers William and John, and Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat.

The church is a symbol of the power the 18-term congressman once wielded. When the Kennedy Expressway was being built with his help in the late 1950s, Mr. Rostenkowski proposed realigning its route to skirt the church. He got his wish, and the highway veers away from St. Stanislaus in the Pulaski Park neighborhood, once the heart of the thriving Polish community that helped elect the congressman to his first term in 1958.

“It’s a landmark. All they did was curve the street. There’s no problem with that,” said Burton Natarus, a former alderman who worked with Mr. Rostenkowski and planned to attend the funeral. “He was a great American because he fought in terms of building America.”

Mr. Rostenkowski, who lived in the neighborhood, was known for his attention to the needs of the city, former colleagues said.

“He could pick up the phone and call everybody, and they would take his call,” said Cook County Circuit Court Judge Aurelia Pucinski, who is the daughter of another former congressman. “He didn’t love the power for the power, but because it enabled him to solve problems.”

Mr. Rostenkowski served in Congress from 1959 until 1995. He was known as one of the most powerful politicians of his time and credited locally for bringing in millions of federal funds.

But his legacy was stained by a corruption conviction and federal prison time. He pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud in 1996 and was sentenced to 17 months in prison.

Mr. Rostenkowski died last week of lung cancer at age 82. He was to be buried later Tuesday in St. Adalbert Cemetery in the suburb of Niles.